Mayapple

Media
Photo of mayapple colony looking like numerous green umbrellas on forest floor
Safety Concerns
Name
Edible
Name
Skin irritating
Scientific Name
Podophyllum peltatum
Family
Berberidaceae (barberries)
Description

On mayapples, only a single flower develops, and only on plants having 2 leaves. The flower arises from the axil of the 2 leaf stems; it is white, with 6–9 waxy, spreading petals and a green, clublike pistil; flowers can be 3 inches across. A rare pink-flowering form exists. Blooms March–May. The leaves are large, to 1 foot wide, with many deep notches to near the middle of the leaf, the segments with coarse teeth, arising from a smooth stem to 1½ feet tall. The fruit is a “may apple,” egg-shaped, to 2 inches long, pale green to yellow, botanically a berry. Plants with only 1 leaf will not flower or fruit; only plants with 2 or 3 leaves form flowers and fruits.

Common Name Synonyms
Mandrake; May-Apple; May Apple
Size
Height: 1 to 1½ feet.
Where To Find
image of Mayapple Mandrake distribution map
Statewide.
Occurs in moist or dry, open woods, ledges of bluffs, sometimes persisting in fields and pastures or on roadsides adjacent to woods. Often found growing in small colonies.
The leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous but have medicinal use, with one derivative used as a treatment for cancer. The ripe fruits are edible with a pleasant taste and can be eaten raw or made into beverages, jellies, and preserves. Handling rootstocks can cause dermatitis in some people.
The closest relatives of mayapple growing in Missouri are shrubs, including the introduced Japanese barberry (an ornamental that escapes cultivation) and two native barberries that are rarely encountered. Details of flower and fruit anatomy reflect plant relationships better than leaves and stems.
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Media Gallery
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Similar Species

Where to See Species

This 227-acre area is 90 percent timbered. Management of this area includes timber harvest and limited row crops and food plots.
Clark Conservation Areas original warranty deed is dated 1978. The purchase was lengthy and complicated because the property was scattered across Clark County in 12 parcels of land.
You might think of Forest 44 as your "Gateway to the Ozarks" from St. Louis County. It lies right along I-44 corridor that conveys travelers to some of the Show-Me State's most scenic places.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!